The research project is based on the concept of cultural heritage and its significance for the memory work of individuals, collectives, and nations. The idea that cultural and, above all, material heritage is a testimony to one’s own history, and thus to an imagined collective and cultural identity, originated as a concept in Europe during the 19th century and is closely linked to the concept of nations which was developing at the same time. It was at this point that the potential of cultural goods for the national and collective identity of peoples became recognized.
The concept of cultural heritage itself is variable: It is interpreted differently, depending on the country and time. In international law, it usually appears as a collective term that is not defined further. For example, the Hague Convention of 1954 states that cultural property is “movable and immovable property which is of
great importance for the cultural heritage of all peoples” (Hoocke-Demarle 2008, our translation).
According to the World Heritage Convention of 1972, monuments, ensembles, and sites are considered cultural heritage. However, this interpretation is not limited to architectural heritage, but also includes natural heritage and, since 2003, intangible cultural heritage. At the international level, UNESCO and the Council of Europe are concerned with the protection of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Hoock-Demarle, Marie-Claire (2008): Introduction: “Troisième partie. Les patrimoines en Allemagne: enjeux de mémoire”. In: Jean-Pierre Vallat (Hg.): Mémoires de patrimoines. Itinéraires géographiques. Paris 2008, pp. 219–221.
SHARED OR CONTRADICTORY HERITAGE?
“At a time when issues around displacement of cultural property from the countries of origin are being considered worldwide, consultation, dialogue, and cooperation among States and museums on access to shared heritage need to be fostered.” (UNESCO 2018). For a good decade now, there has been a worldwide, radical rethinking of the issue of how to deal with cultural heritage. Emerging in part from the slipstream of postcolonial criticism of Europe and a recognition of the disappearance and destruction of cultures, the concept of shared heritage has become an important critical museum discourse.
It not only involves sharing coveted objects, but also passing on shared knowledge, traditions, skills, and values. However, the concept of shared heritage allows for various, even controversial, readings: In a first reading, cultural studies scholars understand it
to mean the interpretation of heritage as a universal archive and transcultural thinking space (Weigel 2016). A second reading is practiced in transnational contexts to create new narratives of a common history whose actors once faced each other as enemies.
A third reading transfers the concept of shared heritage to contemporary migration societies: Here the dialogue about artefacts from migrant cultures serves to generate knowledge in order to expand the concept of heritage and to see it from a
different perspective. And, fourthly, within ethnological contexts, it refers to the historical injustice of colonialism and current postcolonial discourses that examine this heritage from the perspective of the colonized. Here, the concept takes a critical view of shared heritage and includes the controversial dialogue between different interest groups.
The students’ research is methodologically oriented towards three reference points: the concept of memory culture, the definition of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Heritage, and the understanding of shared heritage developed by UNESCO, the EU, and the individual cultural heritage agencies. The methods used are document analysis, interviews with experts, and tandem cooperation. The joint work will be presented in mini-conferences and the contributions will be made available on this website and in an English publication.
While there is no assumption that the situations of both countries can be compared in detail, the research laboratory, through its own survey work, aims to lay bare the modes of argumentation in the cultural institutions of both countries. To do so, representative case will attempt to demonstrate the role of cultural institutions and mediators as agencies of memory and collective self-understanding and to show the extent to which representation, narration, and communication influence the reception of cultural heritage and historical attributions.